#AskTheLandlord | February Q&A with David Brant

In our fourth edition of the #AskTheLandlord campaign, we speak to Landlord David Brant from Platinum Property Partners, who kindly answered the questions sent into ideal flatmate by our users this month.

David manages a number of properties in West Drayton near Heathrow, providing beautiful rooms in shared houses for young professionals to rent and enjoy. He and his wife Rita pride themselves on delivering high-quality accommodation with a friendly and trustworthy service, achieving 99% room occupancy for over 7 years.

Without further ado, here are the questions and answers with David:

What do you recommend doing if our landlord doesn’t respond to requests to help sort our boiler out?

You should always make requests for repairs to your landlord in writing, so there is a clear trail to show when you originally raised the issue with your landlord and what the problem is. Of course, your landlord needs a reasonable amount of time to carry out the repair, however, a problem in relation to a boiler should be resolved, where possible, with urgency as it is a Landlords legal obligation to maintain in working order. It is also important to note that work on boilers requires a Gas Safe Engineer and may require replacement parts and take a number of days to resolve.  Your Landlord should keep you advised during this time and I have previously issued temporary solutions such as electric fan heaters, extra kettles or hot water bottles to help reduce the inconvenience to my tenants when we had a faulty boiler.

Your tenancy agreement should include your Landlord’s obligations and responsibilities so be prepared to remind them that they are in breach of the contract if they do not acknowledge your correspondence or make the repairs. If you’ve had no response, then write again to your landlord and submit a formal complaint, setting a date by which you expect the repairs to be carried out.  If you still don’t get a satisfactory response, then you may want to consider escalating the issue by contacting a property redress scheme that the landlord may belong to. It is never advisable to carry out repairs without the landlord’s permission first. You could also contact the local council for advice as they can carry out property inspections if there are serious issues and can impose enforcement notices on landlords.

Do you have any tips on what makes someone a successful landlord?

A successful Landlord values every tenant experience and does their utmost to ensure that the accommodation they provide is well maintained and managed correctly.  The landlord needs to provide a quality service at a competitive price and communication is key.

I think there are 3 critical elements to being a successful landlord:

Listen – Understand that the property is the tenant’s home and somewhere they want to feel comfortable.  Tenant feedback is also crucial to maintaining a professional service. It’s not always possible to accommodate every request, so be honest with your tenants.

Communicate – Make your process clear and simple, explain what the terms are for the tenancy, and also what you expect from the tenant. Then always provide clear communication for any changes or information that the tenant needs to know such as maintenance, periodic inspections or a contractor requiring access to the property.

Be Responsive – It is inevitable that things can go wrong such as a leaky tap, a faulty appliance or a fence blowing down. Your tenancy agreement should explain what things are the Landlord’s responsibility and what are the tenant’s.  Always respond to any complaint or maintenance request and get things fixed in a timely manner. There isn’t always a quick fix but communicating with your tenants and going the extra mile helps things run smoothly.

Happy tenants are more inclined to stay in the property, which reduces voids and helps to build your reputation. Recommendation and word of mouth are crucial when you are tenanting a property.

How many properties are manageable for one landlord?

There is no simple answer to this as some properties require more management than others. Letting an unfurnished studio flat, on an annual tenancy, to a single person who is responsible for paying their own bills is relatively low maintenance. However, managing a large House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO), fully furnished with all bills included, to 6-8 individual tenants who each stay for an average of say 12 months at a time, requires significantly more management. With my wife Rita, we manage 10 HMO properties including ones we own and some that we manage for other Landlords, in total 61 tenants. Being Landlords is our business and keeps us busy but often we can fit the work around our family activities and quality time with our kids. The key is to have an excellent support team in place for managing your properties.  That means having builders, maintenance people, cleaners, plumbers and electricians that you can call on in an emergency and can rely on to fix jobs quickly.

Where do most of your tenants come from and is there an average age?

We advertise our rooms on several house sharing sites including ideal flatmate. These sites are ideal for attracting young working professionals, typically aged from early 20’s to late 30’s.  The options for advertising using social media are never-ending and room share sites like ideal flatmate are a great platform for landlords to get better coverage than they would by just relying on their own website. Being honest in the advert is key, using real photos and factual information about the available room is really important.  We are still amazed at the number of tenants who arrive for a viewing and are pleasantly surprised to see the room is the same as our advertised photos because that doesn’t always happen.  We also receive recommendations and referrals from our existing and previous tenants.  We are always happy to reward any tenant when this happens. Some prospective tenants do go to agents to find properties, although these tend to be for renting whole houses, and less so for just a room in a shared house. An additional benefit of houseshare sites is that prospective tenants from all over the world can view the rooms, so we have a good mix of tenants from the UK, Europe and beyond.

Do you think age differences matter in a houseshare scenario?

Whenever we are selecting tenants for our houses we take on board what they want and what would work in that particular house.  We also have a consistent referencing process which involves everyone completing the same checks.  We want everyone to enjoy the experience so its key to find the right balance of personality and age.  Age is not the crucial factor, however, it can have a bearing on how the tenants get along with each other, socialise and communicate. If tenants have similar interests then they are more likely to get on well together regardless of age. We’ve had a houseshare with tenants aged 20-50 who have all got on brilliantly, then we’ve had a house with people ranging between 25-35 who have not hit it off! The most important thing is trying to ensure tenants are like-minded and respectful of other housemates, living in a house share requires a degree of tolerance. It’s a great way for tenants to meet new people and form friendships and even lasting relationships – we have had tenants who have gone on to live together, but are still waiting for our first marriage!